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Spring might not be in the air, but for the Australian thoroughbred breeding industry in the depth of winter, spring is very much on its mind.
The man-made modern thoroughbred stallion isn’t required to fight his rivals to build a harem of mares—the multi-million dollar advertising machine takes care of that, and this year the competition for a dwindling number of mares is running hot.
Most of the headline stallions are fully booked, but there is always room for one more … a special mare, too good to refuse.
So with the prospect that a battered and bruised Black Caviar (b m 2006, Bel Esprit-Helsinge, by Desert Sun (GB)) may have run her last race, there isn’t a stud farm that hasn’t dusted off the red carpet in the hope the great mare might float through the front gates.
Firstly, let’s forget about the “mating from heaven” with the unbeaten superstar Frankel, because the toffy English beau has racetrack commitments and it’s almost certain he won’t be taking a seat on the shuttle train in the near future given his owner Khalid Abdullah’s lack of interest in the concept since the accidental death of his stallion, Zafonic, at Arrowfield Stud in 2002.
Even if Frankel was available here, the temptation to use him may be overridden by the fact the progeny will have four sire lines to Northern Dancer—Sadler’s Wells, Danzig (Danehill), Nijinsky (Royal Academy) and Danzig (Desert Sun-Green Desert). Personally, I’d give it a fling.
So what’s on offer for the great mare in Australia?
The first reaction for most will be “it’s easy, go straight to the top of the class”—the two superstar Danehill-sons, Fastnet Rock and Redoute’s Choice.
However, neither is on my short list for the simple reason that there is more to mating a mare such as Black Caviar than to pick the best, and hope for the best.
Her immense size—580kgs—means that big, heavy stallions such as Fastnet Rock and Redoute’s Choice are a risk. Breeder Rick Jamieson sold Black Caviar as a yearling because he took the advice that her size could restrict her racing career—he may have been right but for the superb management of Peter Moody.
The other issue with a direct mating with Fastnet Rock is that he is out of a Royal Academy mare, which gives a 3fx3m cross to the stallion—bit too close for me.
I am setting aside Coolmore Stud’s veteran Encosta De Lago (by Fairy King (USA)) because of the doubts about his ability to produce stallions—the jury is out as we wait for the stock of his fast sons, Northern Meteor and Manhattan Rain, to get to the races—which surely will be a pre-requisite for Black Caviar’s senior owner, Neil Werrett, who is a breeder of significance and who also takes good advice from his Hunter Valley mate, Mick Malone, from Kitchwin Hills, near Scone, where Black Caviar is almost certain to live as a broodmare.
So where does that leave Werrett and his partners?
I believe the ideal horse, physically and on pedigree, is Arrowfield Stud’s rising star Snitzel.
The son of Redoute’s Choice and Snippets’ Lass (by Snippets) is a perfect fit. He’s an up-and-coming young stallion, who is producing brilliant young horses from a base of moderate mares.
Importantly, he’s the right size—a smallish, neat, athletic horse—for a big mare such as Black Caviar, and he gives the Black Caviar’s owners access to the great Danehill sire line through his best sire-son, Redoute’s Choice.
What I like is the mating produces a pedigree that compliments itself. Black Caviar is by a grandson of Nijinsky (by Northern Dancer (CAN)) from a mare by a grandson of Danzig (by Northern Dancer (CAN)), out of a daughter of a mare by Snippets (by Lunchtime (GB)).
The same combination is found in Snitzel, whose sire is a grandson of Danzig and also is from a Nijinsky-line mare. Snitzel’s dam is a daughter of Snippets. The pedigree also provides access to the underrated Lunchtime (by Silly Season (GB)) through his best son (Snippets) and his best-producing daughter, Jesmond Lass, the dam of Canny Lad, who is the sire of Redoute’s Choice’s dam, Shantha’s Choice.
Alan Porter, bloodstock expert for Pedigree Consultants, made the point in an article in Inside Breeding in 2011 that he believes that the doubling of Lunchtime’s sire-line (Silly Season, by Tom Fool (USA)) in Black Caviar’s pedigree is as much to do with her inherent speed as the much-talked-about double dose of the great Australian sprinter Vain (by Wilkes (FR)).
Apart from Snitzel as the standout mating, I have broken up my list of MY likely mates into two—proven and unproven, and added one from left field.
The proven horses worth considering are (in no particular order):
More Than Ready (br h 1997, Southern Halo (USA)-Woodman’s Girl (USA), by Woodman (USA)) Vinery, Scone, NSW.
Smallish and light-framed, the handsome More Than Ready is a perfect fit both physically and in pedigree. Importantly, he has the commercial profile to suit Black Caviar and he also stands at Vinery, one of Australia’s famous farms in Scone, which is part-owned by part-owner Neil Werrett.
Street Cry (b h 1998, Machiavellian (USA)-Helen Street (GB), by Troy (GB)) Darley Kelvinside, Aberdeen, NSW.
Street Cry is a wonderfully versatile sire, and with this mating we get Zenyatta’s sire over Black Caviar! The Street Cry pedigree is an outcross for stallions, although it offers link to Northern Dancer’s family through Machiavellian, who is a son of Mr Prospector from a mare in-bred to Northern Dancer’s granddam, Almahmoud. Also, Mr Prospector has a fine record over mares by Nijinsky.
Lonhro (blk h 1998, Octagonal (NZ)-Shadea, by Straight Strike (USA)) Darley Kelvinside, Aberdeen, NSW.
Lonhro provides an almost complete outcross, as he is almost free of Northern Dancer blood (his grandsire Zabeel has Northern Dancer as his maternal grandsire). Lonhro is Australia’s leading stallion from an initial mare base that is nowhere near the quality he has covered in the past two seasons. While Lonhro is a big horse, he’s not coarse and he generally produces medium-sized horses.
Casino Prince (b h 2003, Flying Spur-Lady Capel, by Last Tycoon (IRE)). Patinack Farm, Aberdeen, NSW.
I chose Casino Prince purely because he obviously has nicked with Black Caviar’s dam, Helsinge, to produce the brilliant All Too Hard. While he is a leggy stallion, he also is light-framed, which complements her size.
Smart Missile (b h 2008, Fastnet Rock-Comical Smile (USA), by Comic Strip (USA)) Arrowfield Stud, Scone, NSW.
Smart Missile is possibly the best link to Fastnet Rock, and it pushed the Royal Academy double cross out to 4×3. Importantly, Smart Missile’s dam line is a an outcross, so we reduce the saturation of Northern Dancer blood.
New Approach (ch h 2005, Galileo (IRE)-Park Express (IRE), by Ahonoora (GB)) Darley Northwood, Seymour, Vic.
We can’t get Frankel, so what about Galileo’s other great son, New Approach, who has really hit his straps with his first runners in Europe—three Stakes winners in Royal Ascot week has elevated him to star status. New Approach also is the result of an outcross, so again, there is a reduction of Northern Dancer’s influence that is so prevalent in Black Caviar’s pedigree.
So You Think (b or br h 2006, High Chaparral (IRE)-Triassic (NZ), by Tights (USA)) Coolmore Stud, Jerry’s Plains, NSW.
While I am a bit concerned about his immense size and the fact the foal will have four sire lines to Northern Dancer, he deserves to be considered for his adonis-like looks and wonderful turn of foot. He is Northern Dancer over Nijinsky, while Black Caviar is the reverse.
Sepoy (ch c 2008, Elusive Quality (USA)-Watchful, by Danehill (USA)) Darley Kelvinside, Aberdeen, NSW.
Sepoy’s sire Elusive Quality is an unknown sire of sires, but Sepoy comes from a wonderful Australian female line. With this mating comes a double of Lunchtime through his best son Snippets and best daughter Jesmond Lass. Sepoy, small, strong and very Australian in his type (he’s a Star Kingdom clone), also is the perfect size for the big mare.
Foxwedge (b h 2008, Fastnet Rock-Forest Native (USA), by Forest Wildcat (USA)) Newgate Farm, Scone, NSW.
Another link to Fastnet Rock, and certainly a smaller version and a more handsome one. Foxwedge may not have had the same raw talent as Sepoy and Smart Missile, but he was very competitive with them. Foxwedge has a double cross of the close relations Royal Academy and Storm Cat—Black Caviar’s grandsire is Royal Academy.
LEFT OF FIELD
Artie Schiller (b h 2001, El Prado (USA)-Hidden Light (USA), by Majestic Light (USA)) Independent Stallions, Stockwell Stud, Diggers Rest, Vic.
The Victorian-based Artie Schiller is shaping as one of the hidden gems in Australian breeding. He offers the type (very handsome and mid-sized) and he’s doing a great job off a base of below average mares. Artie Schiller also offers another link to the great speed influence Tom Fool (Lunchtime’s grandsire) through his sire El Prado’s dam.
Photo: Snitzel at Arrowfield Stud—the perfect mate for Black Caviar.
The pedigree of the perfect match:
Black Caviar didn’t ask to be so special. She certainly didn’t ask for the weight of a nation to be (with Luke Nolen) on her back when she runs in tomorrow night’s Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1200m) at Royal Ascot.
Definitely the wait is killing me, but I wonder if the expectation from Black Caviar’s Australian fans, and admirers, is beyond what is real. For me, fear is starting to creep in. Black Caviar is a horse, not a machine, and racehorses, especially those who visit the well as often as Black Caviar has been asked, get beaten. (Remember Zenyatta’s final start defeat).
I can understand trainer Peter Moody’s reluctance to travel so far with Black Caviar for a race against seemingly moderate, but, for him and most of us, unknown opposition. There can be only one loser in this contest. Sorry, two losers … Black Caviar and Australian racing.
Moody said the mares is as good as she has ever been, but I have been around racing stables long enough to know that all the pre-race blood testing and general observations of a horse by a trainer, vets and staff can prove to be valueless once the button is pressed. Horses can have an off day, and sometimes dormant issues don’t come to a head until the pressure-cooker of a race produces the pop. If a horse is five per cent off your game in a 1200m dash than can mean 10 lengths (viz. Ortensia on Tuesday).
The build-up is such that a defeat for Black Caviar—maybe even a pressured, narrow win—will be a monstrous setback for Australian racing, and its claim to produce “the world’s best sprinters” and the continual claim that Black Caviar is as good a horse that has looked through a bridle south of the equator.
Spare me those, such as “the official biographer” Gerard Whateley—you can’t deny his passion—who have continually compared Black Caviar to Phar Lap, which is utter nonsense, and a story for another day.
Thankfully, Moody was only joking when he said he might ask Nolen to “let her slip” in the wake of Frankel’s 11-length win in the Queen Anne on day one. Sections of the media seem to think it is necessary for Black Caviar to carve up the famous Royal Ascot course to deserve her place as a great. Surely, 21 wins (hopefully 22 after Saturday night) without defeat is enough.
If she is beaten, the collected “ooohhh” that will exhale from Australia will be enough to make the 5.3 richter-scale earthquake that hit Melbourne a few hours before Frankel’s race seem like a jolt over a speed hump.
The Twitter sphere will run hot … the blame game will linger long into the night. “Moody didn’t work her hard enough” … “Nolen should have let her run” …
Poor So You Think’s reputation suffered from the weight of expectation. Matt Stewart wrote in the Herald Sun today that we must take much of the blame for raising the horse to such high levels that even a courageous defeat from a poor ride and ill-judged tactics in last year’s Princes Of Wales’s Stakes defeat (by Rewilding) diminished his aura and the value of our racing. Stewart was spot on.
The Coolmore Stud spin machine, with an office at Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle, also must take some blame. It got away with its “fastest ever” talk when Starspangledbanner won the Golden Jubilee and July Cup, but So You Think has had a roller-coaster ride trying to live up to the hype.
O’Brien even apologised to Australia for getting it wrong, calling upon Coolmore rule 1: “Never blame the horse.”
We should have listened to Bart Cummings when he refused to say the So You Think was better than Galilee (his 1965 Caulfield and Melbourne Cup winner) or any better than 1996 Cox Plate and Cup winner Saintly, but it seems that we only listen when Bart has a one-liner of the sort he produced when “accepting” O’Brien’s apology. Said Bart, “He’s a slow learner.”
We already had forgotten about the historic deeds of Makybe Diva (also compared to Phar Lap) and pumped up So You Think’s tyres to the point that even Phar Lap’s hide was shuddering in its glass case in the Melbourne museum.
Fortunately, So You Think has had a chance to redeem himself by winning this year’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, despite a few hiccups in along the way. Five Group 1 wins in Europe from 10 starts puts him way ahead of anything else to come out of Australia or New Zealand.
Tomorrow night, Australia will stay up to watch the race. Channel 7 is showing it live. Some people, without any interest in horse racing, will tune in just to see what all the fuss is about. If she wins they will rejoice in the fact she has “conquered the world”, which has been part of the unrealistic build up, and they will wait for the Prime Minister to declare “bosses are bums” and a national holiday. If she loses, they will ask “what happened?” and we will answer “that’s racing.”
Win or lose, Black Caviar will be in quarantine on Saturday night (UK time) and soon on her way home. Let’s hope its not with her tail pressed tightly between her pressure-suited legs.
Footnote: Of course, we must trust in Moody and his great ability to place his mare in the right races. He’s got it right 21 times so far. Australia’s record in the Diamond (Golden) Jubilee is two wins—Choisir in 2003 and Starspangledbanner in 2009—and Takeover Target was beaten a nose in 2007. Black Caviar is at least six lengths better than those.
Wanted colts topped the Magic Millions National Weanling Sale on the Gold Coast in Queensland and the first day of selling at the Great Southern Weanling Sale at Oaklands Junction in Victoria.
Wanted, winner of the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap as a three-year-old in 2010, is the first son of the sensational Fastnet Rock (by Danehill) to go to stand at stud. Eliza Park took a conservative approach with the stallion, who is a rig (one testicle), in his first season and covered a restricted book of 75 mares.
However, with stallion’s popularity growing and his fertility standing up to commercial requirements, he had a book of 112 mares last year at a fee of $38,500 which he handled with ease.
Henry Field’s Newgate Farm struck hard on Wanted colts. He bought the Melbourne colt, from the Danasinga mare Vestment, under the Ascot Heath Pty Ltd banner for $117,500 and he saddled up again at the Gold Coast to buy the top colt, out of the mare Regal Arena (by Arena), for $255,000.
Field, who pinhooked the colts to bolster his draft for the 2013 yearling sales, was enthusiastic about his Magic Millions colt. “Seriously, he is one of the best colts I’ve seen at a weanling sale in the last two or three years,” he said.
One of the underbidders on the colt, Ian Smith from Edinburgh Park, said he thought the Wanted youngsters offered everything a vendor would want in a sales’ horse. “They’re very similar to Wanted—for that matter, Fastnet Rock—quality types with plenty of bone,” he told elizapark.com.au.
Another Wanted weanling, a filly from Aquatint, by Supremo (USA), was sold for $190,000 to the bid of Boomer Bloodstock.
Wanted also had five mares in foal to him at the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale for an average of $137,000, including the smart mare Satin Robes, who sold for $420,000.
Interestingly, it was a half-sister to Satin Robes (by Ne Coupez Pas (USA)), who produced Wanted’s promising colt in Melbourne. The colt also is closely related to the Eliza Park-bred Group 1 winner, Recurring.
Wanted, who is from the Snippets mare Fragmentation, and is bred on a similar Danehill-Snippets cross to Snitzel and Magnus, stands this season at a slightly reduced fee of $33,000.